Sacramento State’s matchup with Pacific in the Sacramento State Basketball Invitational on Sunday night showed how far the Hornets’ men’s program continues to progress in coach Brian Katz’s eighth season.
Pacific has dominated Sac State through the years. Entering Sunday night’s game at The Nest, the Tigers held a 31-7 advantage in the series, including 14 wins in the previous 15 meetings. In their last meeting in 2009 in Stockton, the Tigers won by 30 points.
But it was a different story in the finale of Sac State’s first tournament in 20 years. The Hornets took control from the start, led for more than 33 minutes and held off the Tigers in the final minutes for a 79-71 win.
Sophomore guard Marcus Graves led the way with 19 points, eight steals and six assists. Senior co-captains Cody Demps and Nick Hornsby combined for 30 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists to help the Hornets (5-1) bounce back from their first loss of the season, 96-90 to South Dakota in the tournament opener Saturday.
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Though pleased with the win, Katz downplayed any historical significance.
“For us, every game, every win is a big deal,” Katz said. “I’m more excited that we bounced back after (Saturday) night. I thought (Saturday) night we were a step slow. In retrospect, we learned something…. We can’t play like we’re 4-0. We have to play like underdogs or else we’re not going to be very good. Tonight we played like underdogs from the very beginning.”
The Hornets ramped up the defensive intensity they lacked against a South Dakota team that shot 53.8 percent from the field and 63.2 percent from three-point range.
Pacific (1-5) shot 45.5 percent (22 of 55), including 25 percent (6 of 24) from three-point range and was a step behind the Hornets for most of the second half. The Tigers’ biggest lead was two points and came with 18:11 to play. The Hornets went up by as many as 13 points.
“(Saturday) we didn’t have a lot of energy. We didn’t come out with the passion that we usually do,” said Demps, who had 17 points and seven assists. “So today we fixed that. We had a team meeting and talked about the way we lost. It just wasn’t the Hornet way. Our defense was lacking.”
Katz said the players intently watched film of South Dakota at that meeting.
“All the things we’d done well before we did not do well,” Katz said. “We were slow on the screens, slow to react. All the staples of our program we slipped on, though obviously South Dakota played great.”
Demps said he had no idea about Pacific’s dominance of the Hornets through the years.
“I didn’t even know that because I’ve never played against Pacific, but we’ll take it,” Demps said. “We’re trying to progress as a program. We keep building on things year after year.”
The Hornets now will prepare to play UC Davis in a Causeway Cup rematch Wednesday at the Pavilion. Sac State defeated UC Davis 84-79 on Tuesday at The Nest.
South Dakota 77, Eastern Washington 71 – Guard Shy McClelland had 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting, and forward Dan Jech had 14 points and five rebounds as the Coyotes (4-3) rallied from nine points down early in the second half to beat the Eagles (3-3).
South Dakota shot 58.3 percent, including 70.8 percent in the second half.